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Graduate Application FAQ

Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

What are the admissions requirements?

Minimum admissions requirements as follows: 

MA Program

Applicants with strong grades (at minimum, a B+ average in their third and fourth level courses in their major) who expect to have completed an honours degree in sociology, social psychology or a closely related social scientific field may be admitted as candidates for the MA degree. Students with substantial coursework in sociology from outside of the social sciences disciplines also will be considered.

PhD Program

Applicants with a Master's degree in sociology who demonstrate an excellent record of academic achievement, a strong plan for sociological research, and a fit with the expertise of the current faculty members of the Sociology Department may be admitted to the PhD program in Sociology. Students in closely related social scientific fields, or have a strong background in sociology, also will be considered. All applicants must have a minimum A- average in their MA coursework.

Please note admission is competitive: meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. 


I am a student with a disability. Should I mention something about this in my application?

The McMaster Sociology Department does not discriminate against students with disabilities. Applicants are urged to declare any disabilities, as well as to provide details concerning accommodations provided by their previous educational institutions, at the time of application. Such declaration is encouraged particularly in cases where it is felt that the disability may have affected past academic performance, and/or where accommodation may be required in order for the student to be successful in his/her graduate program.

The School of Graduate Studies' policy with regard to students with disabilities can be found here (Section 6.5 of the School of Graduate Studies Calendar). Further information may be obtained from the School of Graduate Studies or the Student Accessibility Services (x28652).


I am an international applicant. Will you recognize my degree?

Applicants educated at non-Canadian institutions should note that their educational background will be assessed for equivalency with a McMaster University degree. Unfortunately the Department of Sociology does not have the resources to pre-screen applications.


How much is the application fee?

The application fee is $100. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid in Canadian dollars by means of a credit card payment.


How should I pay the application fee?

Please submit payments online a major credit card. The application fee will not be processed until the application is complete.


Can my application fee be waived?

The application fee will not be waived, refunded, or deferred.


I changed my mind and do not want to go to graduate school anymore; can the application fee be refunded?

The application fee will not be refunded.


I accidentally applied for the wrong program; can this be changed, or can the application fee be refunded?

If you have applied for the wrong program, you must begin a new application for the correct program. The fee for the incorrect application cannot be refunded.


I accidentally applied for the wrong program; can this be changed, or can the application fee be refunded?

If you have applied for the wrong program, you must begin a new application for the correct program. The fee for the incorrect application cannot be refunded.


I want to apply to more than one program; do I have to submit more than one application?

If you wish to apply to more than one program, you must pay separate application fees and submit separate sets of documents for each.


English is not my first language. Do I need to write an English exam?

If English is not your first language:

Applicants are required to submit evidence of their proficiency in the English language as part of their application. The most common evidence is a score on one of the following exams:

  • TOEFL: minimum score of 92 (internet based), 237 (computer based) or 580 (paper based), minimum of 20 per band
  • IELTS (Academic): minimum overall score of 6.5, with at least 5.5 in each section
  • CAEL: minimum overall score of 70, with at least 60 per band
  • MELAB: minimum score of 85
  • PTE Academic: minimum score of 63
  • York University course: YUELI Level 6 with a minimum final grade of B
  • University of Toronto course: Academic Level 60 with a minimum final grade of B


Do I have to list all of my previous schools and education training?

A complete record of all post-secondary attendance is required for all applicants.


How many reference letters are required for admission?

The Sociology Department requires two (2) confidential letters of recommendation from instructors most familiar with your academic work.


What is the submission process for my referees?

McMaster University uses the Electronic Referencing System. By entering the email address of your referee through the online application, the system will automatically send an e-Reference request on your behalf. If for some reason you are unable to use the Electronic Referencing System, you can download the Reference form here.

Electronic Referencing System


My referee’s contact information has changed. I have already submitted my online application; how can I edit the referee's contact information?

Please contact with full information about your new referee including name, email, and full university mailing address.

Contact the Sociology Graduate Program


Where can I find information on the status of my application?

You can log in to the Online Application for information on the status of your application

Online Application Status Login


Can I send a hardcopy application?

No, you need to submit your application online.


Do I apply for funding at the same time as I apply for admission?

The Department of Sociology at McMaster University offers financial support of incoming graduate students to help them to excel at their studies and to complete their graduate programs in a timely manner. Funding for graduate study usually comprises a combination of monies from graduate scholarships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. Many current and incoming graduate students receive additional funding from external agencies (see below).


Applicants are advised to apply for federal scholarships (not applicable for international applicants).

Canada Graduate Scholarships - Master's Program 
All Master's applicants should apply for this federal scholarship if they meet the eligibility requirements. Deadline: December 1, 2015. Please choose McMaster as one of your five choices for University.

Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program Doctoral Scholarships, and SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships.
If you are currently in a Master's program, you are required to apply via your home university. Check with your current department for the internal deadline; typically it is in October.

Alternatively, students in health related research (social psychology) may want to apply to the Canadian Institute of Health Research Doctoral Research Awards.

All applicants should also review the McMaster Ontario Graduate Scholarship process.

Graduate Funding Information 


What are the department specialities?

At the Ph.D. level, the department specializes in six main areas as described below. All students will choose two comprehensive exams from the list of five options. For more detailed descriptions, click here.

  • Social Inequality
  • Sociology of Gender and Sexuality
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
  • Political Sociology and Social Movements
  • Sociology of Work and Occupations

Research Areas


What are the degree requirements?

The McMaster University Graduate Studies Calendar provides a general description of the program of study leading to the MA and PhD degrees offered by the department.

The Sociology Department Graduate Handbook includes up-to-date information on current courses being offered each year. Students at both the MA and PhD level work with their graduate faculty advisor to determine which courses will be right for their course of study.

MA Degree

The MA degree can be obtained in one of three ways: through the coursework option, through the major research paper option or through the thesis option. The coursework option exposes students to a wide variety of specializations in Sociology and provides a solid grounding for those interested in more advanced study in Sociology. The major research paper option gives students the opportunity to strengthen their general training in Sociology and to plan and execute a major research paper. The thesis option allows students to closely study a particular area and topic. When choosing this option, students are strongly advised to have a clearly defined thesis topic prior to entering the program.

The coursework option requires the satisfactory completion of eight half (one-term) courses. All students must pass one 700 level theory course (*750 or *751) and one 700 level research methods course (*740, *742, *743). No more than two of the eight courses may be at the 600-level; no more than two of the eight courses may be independent research courses. Part-time applicants are welcome to apply for the coursework option.

The major research paper option requires the satisfactory completion of six half (one-term) courses and the completion of a major research paper. All students must pass one 700 level theory course (*750 or *751) and one 700 level research methods course (*740, *742, *743). No more than one course may be at the *600 level and students may not complete an independent research course. For those following the major research paper route, students are expected to complete three courses and have a research proposal approved by their supervisor in the first term of studies. Typically, the major research paper will be written during the summer term. This option is for full-time students only.

The thesis option requires the satisfactory completion of four half (one-term) courses and a written thesis. All students must pass one 700 level theory course (*750 or *751). No more than one course may be at the 600-level; no more than one course may be an independent research course. For those following the thesis route, students are expected to complete three courses and have a thesis proposal approved by their committee in the first term of studies. This program is available for full-time students only.

PhD Degree

Students taking a PhD are required to complete a minimum of seven half (one-term) courses beyond the MA level that:

  1. meet the methodology requirements;
  2. meet the theory requirements;
  3. include two quarter courses on professional development (724# and 725#);
  4. include at least two 700 level courses offered by the department in addition to those taken to meet the methodology and theory requirements;
  5. include no more than one independent research course; and
  6. include no more than two graduate courses offered by another department.

In order to meet the methodology requirements at the Ph.D. level, students must receive at least a B+ in Sociology *740 (Quantitative Methodology). Students with inadequate quantitative background are required to take a one-term course in statistics *6Z3 before embarking upon Sociology *740. Students also must meet the requirements for either Historical or Qualitative methods by taking either *742 or *743 and obtain a minimum grade of B+.

Students entering the PhD program must pass one 700 level theory course (*750 or *751) with a grade of B+.

Ph.D. students must take comprehensive examinations in two substantive areas of Sociology selected from the list of areas provided by the department. It may be required to show proficiency in a foreign language if the language is necessary to their research. Students are expected to complete an approved dissertation proposal by the end of the second year. Finally, all doctoral candidates are required to complete and defend a dissertation.

Still have questions?

If you have additional questions about the admissions process or graduate program, please email If you need assistance with the technical aspect of your on-line application form, please contact In both cases, please allow three to five days for a response.

Contact technical support for the On-line Graduate Application

How to Apply

Thinking of applying to McMaster for graduate studies in sociology? 

Application Process